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Union welcomes delay in EU withdrawal process.

Byline: Rachael Misstear West Wales Editor rachael.misstear@walesonline.co.uk

THE Farmers' Union of Wales has welcomed the Prime Minister's decision to delay invok-king Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon and has called for the UK and EU to agree on a sensible timetable for Brexit after the UK electorate voted to leave the EU - or risk dire consequences for both the UK and the remaining 27 Member States.

It comes after the NFU said the ref-ferendum result was a "political car crash", and warned that the UK's dependence on imports combined with a weakened pound would mean the country could expect to see the price of food go up.

The FUW, which had also supported the Remain campaign and was a member of Stronger In Europe, said it was "naturally disappointed with the outcome."

It said as a democratic organisation it fully respected the outcome of the vote, and work must now start to build a positive future for farming and the rural economy of Wales outside the EU.

FUW president Glyn Roberts said the timescale of an exit was crucial to such planning, and that exit over too short a period would have dire consequences for both the UK and the EU. He said: "There is a monumental amount of work to do in terms of changing domestic arrangements and legislation, including in terms of Welsh devolved legislation, not to mention unravelling us from the EU budget to which we were previously committed, negotiating trade deals and dealing with issues such as border controls.

"Such issues will also require a huge amount of work at the EU level, and we do not believe a rapid exit over a couple of years would be in either the UK or the EU's interests. It is likely to leave everyone with the worst of all worlds," he added.

The union has called for early meetings with the Welsh Government and is also engaged with UK Government to ensure that the voice of Welsh farming is heard during these challenging times.

"We have also reached out to other non-member states in order to better understand agricultural models in countries such as Norway and Switzerland, and these knowledge exchanges will ensure that the experience of other nations can benefit any plans being developed in Wales," said Mr Roberts.

The FUW will also be using its wide network of county branches to ensure that the voice and views of members throughout Wales are heard during the planning and negotiation phases of any exit. A meeting of county chairmen is planned for the first week of July.

"Our members' voices must be heard, so we will consult with them as widely as we can to ensure that Wales gets what it needs to ensure a sustainable agricultural future and stronger rural economies."

The NFU has called an emergency meeting of its governing body for July 1 to discuss how leaving the European Union will affect farming.

It says difficulties facing farmers could also be compounded by a shortfall in labour as EU workers who have come to Britain due to freedom of movement laws may no longer be able to pick fruit and vegetables.

Meurig Raymond, president of NFU England and Wales, said the referendum result was a "political car crash", and warned that the UK's dependence on imports combined with a weakened pound would mean the country could expect to see the price of food go up.

Mr Raymond told the Guardian: "Sadly, we only produce 60% of the food we consume. We've seen our self-sufficiency fall dramatically, so we are very dependent on imported food.

"A weaker pound will mean higher imported food value. I would say to government [it] could easily be held to ransom by other parts of the world if there is a climatic disaster or if currency is weak."

NFU Cymru president, Stephen James said: "At the forefront of most farmers' minds will be the twin questions of what level of access we will enjoy to the European markets and what level of support farmers in Wales might receive once the withdrawal process is complete. "We must ensure we have the best possible access to Europe's markets and an agricultural policy that guarantees parity of treatment with the rest of Europe.

"If farm businesses are to plan for the future then they need to know the answers to these questions sooner rather than later.

"Negotiating and concluding trade agreements with the European Union and the rest of the world, for our exports, now becomes vital. Wales is particularly reliant on export markets and we will be look-king to the UK Government to prioritise the negotiation of favourable trade agreements. While doing so I would stress that it is essential that decision makers do not undermine domestic agriculture by opening the UK market to goods which do not meet our own high standards of production."

Mr James concluded: "We are urgently seeking a meeting with the Cabinet Secretary to discuss the implications for Welsh agriculture and we have convened a special meeting of our Governing body, Welsh Council, on the July 5 to begin to consult on our key priorities for a post Brexit Wales."

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 28, 2016
Words:885
Previous Article:Public support for UK farming industry continues to grow.
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